Bill's Transcripts

Transcript: Interview with Sonya Feldhoff, 891 ABC Adelaide, 2 March 2012

Subjects: Bob Carr’s appointment as Foreign Minister, long service leave for artists

SONYA FELDHOFF:   Well, after the drama of Monday's leadership ballot in the ALP it was Julia Gillard's role over the next - over the last couple of days to be looking at her ministry and providing us with the details of a new reshuffle of the cabinet and various other positions.

Now amongst those changes there was quite a surprise today when Bob Carr was announced as Foreign Minister to replace Kevin Rudd who resigned from that role. It feels like ages ago that that happened, but it was only a week ago. Who would have thought?

But as one of her ministers in that line up, Bill Shorten has been in Adelaide today, certainly not been in Canberra waiting for the call, he's been in Adelaide continuing his work as Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation and Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations.  He joins me now.

Thank you for your time, Minister.

BILL SHORTEN:  Good afternoon, Sonya.

SONYA FELDHOFF:   And I'm assuming you've retained those roles in this new line up?

BILL SHORTEN:  I do employment, industrial relations, superannuation and financial services and as part of that today I've been with Steve Georganas who's the local Member for Parliament for Hindmarsh and we've been to Export Park early child care centre, they've got 90 littlies there from one year to pre-kindergarten and just seeing how our child care system’s working. It's pretty impressive.

SONYA FELDHOFF:   Very interesting topic coming up that you're looking at regarding long service leave for artists and we'll get to that in just a moment.


SONYA FELDHOFF:   But obviously with the reshuffle that was announced today, how does that happen, Bill Shorten?  Do you get the - I mean you've been here in Adelaide, do you get the call from the Prime Minister to say look you're safe in those roles or do you get talked in in the days beforehand?  What's the protocol with all this?

BILL SHORTEN:  Our Prime Minister consults widely within the caucus, generally about what people are thinking.  That's one of the reasons I think she got such overwhelming support on Monday, right now it seems a lifetime ago, because she was very good at consulting.

But I think on the specifics, these are the decisions of the Prime Minister, who gets to do what job. I think she's picked a very substantial leader in public life, Bob Carr, to be the Foreign Minister and I think people will be impressed, and it's a substantial addition to the Senate.  So she does for a mix of consulting and judgement.

Leadership can be a lonely path.  She's not alone because we back her, but sometimes you've got to make calls about who gets promoted and who doesn't.

SONYA FELDHOFF:   Well making calls is certainly something that has been the subject of a great deal of opposition focus over the last few days and that's the phone calls and the fact that Bob Carr's name has been talked about for some time before this.

With all the denials that we had, do you think there's any concern that Julia Gillard will again be seen to have perhaps dodged the truth on this one with the announcement today?

BILL SHORTEN:  No, I think only people who are determined never to see anything good in what the Government's doing would be unhappy with the imminent arrival of a public figure such as Bob Carr in Canberra.  He's a distinguished person, he knows a lot about the world, he's got significant relationships all around the world.

No one, regardless of how dyed in the wool Liberal or Labor you are, can be unhappy when a political party can draft someone of talent to do a good job.  People want good representatives.  I mean that's what I see - have to say as with Steve Georganas, he and I were talking about these - how we get better child care.

So it's not just at the Foreign Minister level, it's having good local representation, but I think people will regard him, Bob Carr, as a good draft pick, to use a football analogy.

SONYA FELDHOFF:   My guest is Bill Shorten, the Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation and Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations here on 891 Afternoons.

Minister, it has been touted by the opposition and some might think that there would be some within Labor ranks who would be concerned that they have been overlooked and someone has been virtually parachuted into that role no matter how good he is.

Does that say anything about the depth of talent in the current serving team of the ALP inCanberra?

BILL SHORTEN:  I'm a minister in the Government.  Steve Georganas is a high profile backbencher.  We don't feel overlooked if you bring in new talent. You know, I've barracked - this is probably going to cause a drop in the popularity I might have had up 'til now, but I'm a Collingwood supporter and in 2010 we had a very good team, but I'm sure the 2011 line up doesn't complain when you bring in new players.  You've got to have a bit of regeneration.

I think the real concern is the Coalition.  It's really just the Howard Government B team.  They haven't done a lot of regenerating at all on their front bench.  Over time, organisations always need to bring in new blood and fresh faces.  I think there's a problem for Mr Abbott's Coalition that I don't see a lot of that happening by contrast to us.

SONYA FELDHOFF:   What do you think Bob Carr will bring to the role?  We know that he has wanted to be Foreign Minister for a long time.  What is it about him that is different to others, I guess?

BILL SHORTEN:  Well he's clearly a very educated man, he's clearly, well it mightn't be clear to people but I've met with him in Washington and New York and heard him speak.  He knows his way around the world. He's followed world affairs for forty years.  He was a journalist for the old Bulletin magazine. So I think he knows, he's highly educated, he knows his way around the world in what's happening.

He's also, since he was Premier ofNew South Wales, been out in the private sector.  He's been involved with the Dymocks book chain.  He's got an idea of industry that deepens his already impressive CV.  I mean he was a leader inNew South Walesand, again, only the most hardened sceptics would say that it's a shame if you get someone with experience in all those walks of life and not to be able to use them.

Some people might try and make a point of the fact that he's in his sixties.  I think that we've got to start looking at people in their sixties and seventies as having careers, not just saying that, you know, you're past it.  I think not all - that sometimes we have too much of a cult of youth and not enough about respecting age and experience.

SONYA FELDHOFF: I imagine that there needs to be a certain gravitas associated with the Foreign Minister.  Would that be a fair comment?

BILL SHORTEN:  I think so. He does have gravitas. Yes, I do think he, I think that is necessary.  He'sAustralia's flag bearer on the world stage.

SONYA FELDHOFF:   Carolyn sent through a text. She says love Bob Carr, he's a great thinker.  So certainly one person's happy with that appointment.

BILL SHORTEN:  Well that's a start. That's good.

SONYA FELDHOFF:   [Laughs] Bill Shorten, you've been inAdelaide, you've mentioned you've just been with Steve Georganas at a child care centre looking at things, but alsoAdelaide at the moment is awash with artists for every possible festival we can hold at the moment and that has been the subject of something else you've been looking at.

Can you tell us a little bit about this long service leave proposal?

BILL SHORTEN:  Well it's occurred to me talking with performing artists and musos and music teachers and people who have been in the live performing arts industry over many years, some of whom might have other day jobs, that we really take for granted a lot of our performing artists.  People are performing artists by and large not for the money, but for their sheer pleasure of entertaining and engaging in the arts.

What makes a town or a suburb or a state or a nation successful is not just its GDP and its economic performance, but of the vitality of its artistic life. InAdelaide...

SONYA FELDHOFF:   [Interrupts] That often brings the heart, doesn't it, to something?

BILL SHORTEN:  It does, it's the reason why we live in certain places and we don't define ourselves by what we do Monday to Friday, it might be the band we go and see on Saturday as well.

What happens though is that most Australians are eligible for long service leave because they've worked for an organisation for a period of several years.  When you're a musician or a performing artist or a roadie, the truth of the matter is you don't work for the same person for 10 or 15 years.

So I'm going to ask the House of Representatives policy committee chaired by Amanda Rishworth, another hardworking South Australian Labor MP, to see is it feasible to look at having a portable long service leave scheme for performing artists.

What that effectively means is that if you work in the industry, and if you work in the industry for longer than fifteen years, you might be eligible for some long service leave. Now you've got to work out the cost and all of that, but what I do think is we rely on our performing artists, no one's ever going to get rich except for the few very successful ones at the top.  Behind every great musician you need the band.

SONYA FELDHOFF:   Is there a sort of a similar proposal operating in any other industry that...

BILL SHORTEN:  There is in the construction industry. Yes there is.

SONYA FELDHOFF:   ...that might be - in the construction.  That's what I thought, yeah. Very portable.

BILL SHORTEN:  There is and I know that I negotiated a scheme for jockeys because jockeys never work for the same owner for fifteen years and at the end of your time they should get some sort of long service leave payment.

So it can be done.  I don't think the cost is that great.  You're talking about an accumulation of, I don't know .86 weeks for every year of service and you've got to be in the industry.

I just know that - and any parent that's got a kid at school with a music teacher, that music teacher will also be an artist on the weekend -  I know there's plenty of accountants and plenty of people who can sing and perform and act.  Why don't we - it's a small investment in just saying to people who are artistic, good on you and good on you for going with us and you actually enrich all of our lives.

SONYA FELDHOFF:   It's an interesting proposal.  Have you had much feedback on your desire to do this?

BILL SHORTEN:  Well, no, not a lot.  I only raised - I raised it this morning. But...

SONYA FELDHOFF:   It's a pretty new one.

BILL SHORTEN: It's a brand new idea.  When people say in politics there's no new ideas, I think that passes that test. Now I'm not sure if it's feasible.  It's always got a financial implication, but I think - I honestly believe that if we want to be a society that values our artists then it's not just the superstars.

It's not just Geoffrey Rush and Cate Blanchett and good on them for their success, it'll be the hundreds of performers at theAdelaide Festival, it'll be literally the thousands of visitors we get at Fringe or participants at Fringe. I think this is a good idea.  Its time's come and we can move it along.

SONYA FELDHOFF:   And the Cate Blanchetts and Geoffrey Rushes get paid very good money for the jobs they do, but a lot of these other people are just working and slogging away for a weekly wage, aren't they?

BILL SHORTEN: Yeah and I know and I've spoken with some of the senior leaders in the arts industry, they agree with this.  But when we get the musicians for our orchestras, when we get our artists, when we get the people who are the sound techs, I just think it's a sensible idea.  Most Australians have had access to long service leave schemes for a very long time.

And again, you don't become a performing artist and stay in it for 15 years to get eight weeks or 10 weeks long service leave at the end of it, but it's just another way of increasing the value of people's work.

SONYA FELDHOFF:   Well this hours-old idea, Bill Shorten.  What happens now with it?  Where do you take it to see, perhaps, this develop even further?

BILL SHORTEN: Well the South Australian Labor MPs, federally, I don't know, maybe it's the legacy of Don Dunstan, but always interested in the arts, so I've been speaking with Steve Georganas and I caught up with Amanda Rishworth earlier this week and we'll have a parliamentary investigation into the matter.  It's important.  It's good to have an idea, anyone can do that on a Friday afternoon; you've got to work out how it works and - but I think it is possible.

SONYA FELDHOFF:   Well it's been lovely talking with you.  Thank you for your time today.  I imagine you've dipped into some of the Fringe and Festival while you're here, or not enough time, Bill Shorten?

BILL SHORTEN:  No, no, I'm looking forward to going to see the Adelaide Festival.  You've got a Victorian helping out, Paul Grabowsky.


BILL SHORTEN:  He's very skilled, so I'm looking forward to seeing a couple of things.

SONYA FELDHOFF:   All right, look good to talk with you.  Thanks for your time today.

BILL SHORTEN:  Good on you.  Cheers.

SONYA FELDHOFF:   Bill Shorten, the Minister for Financial Service and Superannuation and Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, one minister who's kept his job in this reshuffle that Julia Gillard announced today.